From Counterculture to Cyberculture, by Fred Turner, presents the fascinating history through which avowed cultural radicals of the 1960s came to generate the present day dogmas of working culture under digital capitalism. In the last week, I’ve written about this in terms of the digital nomad and the digital hipster. These cultural forms are, as Turner puts it on loc 3846, “libertarian nostrums” which “can transform a series of personal losses-of time with family and neighbors, of connection to one’s body and one’s community-into a soothing narrative with which they can rationalize the limits of their own choices”.

What in reality is “every bit as thorough an integration of the individual into the economic machine as the one threatened by the military-industrial-academic bureaucracy forty years earlier” (loc 3838) is rationalised as a mode of living freely, living passionately and living openly. One congratulates oneself for resisting integration into the cold, mechanical life-denying system while in reality being integrated into that system in a manner which is, arguably, more comprehensive.

He makes a crucial point on loc 3838-3846 about this nomadic mode of integration. This integration is comprehensive in its scope, with ‘personal life’ constantly under threat from ‘working life’ in a way which was not the case with the careful balance of the bourgeois 9-5. Every facet of life risks being subsumed under one’s (passionate) work. But this is accentuated by the tendency of work to squeeze out what Archer and Donati call relational goods. The form of life of the digital nomad too often precludes the mundanity of everyday involvements which generate relational goods, bonds with others that produce sources of value independent of those of organisations and capital. There is not a necessary feature of freelance labour, as much as it a certain self-articulation and mode of accounting for this condition of labour: the (relative) temporal autonomy which many enjoy could facilitate a very different relationship to the social order. From loc 3838-3846:

It may in fact result in every bit as thorough an integration of the individual into the economic machine chine as the one threatened by the military-industrial-academic bureaucracy forty years earlier. Furthermore, it may cut individual workers off from participating in local cal communities that might otherwise mitigate these effects. To stay employed, Ullman and workers like her must move from node to node within the network of sites where computers and software are manufactured and used, and in order to pick up leads for new work, they must stay in touch with one another. As a result, programmers and others often find themselves selves living in a social and physical landscape populated principally by people like themselves. To succeed within that landscape, they must often turn their attention away from another, parallel landscape: the landscape of local, material things, of town boards and PTA meetings, of embodied participation ticipation in civic life. They must declare and maintain an allegiance to their own professional network, to its sites and technologies. And they must carry with them a handful of rules that Ullman trumpets with more than a little sarcasm: `Just live by your wits and expect everyone else to do the same. Carry no dead wood. Live free or die. Yeah, surely, you can only rely on yourself.”

The reality underlying the ideals of the digital nomad and the digital hipster is the digital monad. If we treat these ideals too seriously, working life under digital capitalism eats away at our independent sources of esteem and value, leaving us with no locus of fulfilment other than work. The more we invest ourselves in working life, the harder it becomes to imagine a life which is not centred around work.

I just came across this term in The Upstarts, by Brad Stone, loc 1828:

Enjoying a modicum of momentum, Kalanick leased a new office in San Francisco but had a month before he could move in. Instead of waiting, he took the whole company to Thailand, where they worked eighteen-hour days out of cafés and a house overlooking the craggy Railay Beach coastline rewriting the Red Swoosh code. It was a productive retreat and the first of what Kalanick called workations, a tradition that continued at Red Swoosh and, later, Uber.

There are loads of videos on YouTube about this:

(the last one is particularly cringe-worthy)

This looks great:


Mediated Intimacies
Call for Papers: Special Issue of Journal of Gender Studies to be published in March 2017
edited by Feona Attwood, Jamie Hakim, Alison Winch
EXTENDED DEADLINE – 30th January 2016
In what ways does media convergence culture represent, intervene in, exploit and enable intimate relations? How is intimacy being reconfigured under neoliberalism?
On the one hand we are living in atomized and individualistic times where relationships are increasingly strategic and competitive. On the other the media has become, as Beverly Skeggs argues, intensely intimate. This special issue on mediated intimacies aims to explore how understandings of intimacy are (re)constructed and experienced, particularly in digital cultures. In addition, we are interested in the ways in which the apparently alienated entrepreneurial self is constructed through and by forging intimate connections and simultaneously how these networks are mined and monetized by corporate culture.

This special issue of Journal of Gender Studies is developed from a symposium held in July 2014 on Mediated Intimacies where the speakers explored, among other topics, girls’ online friendships, ‘expert’ sex advice in printed media, male seduction communities, and how pornography reconceptualises the very idea of intimacy itself.

Potential papers could explore the affective dimensions of intimate practices reflecting the pleasures and pains of life lived under neoliberalism, including how precarity and class impact on the ways in which intimacy is forged. Because digital culture is primarily corporate driven (Taylor 2014) we are interested in how user-generated media employs self-branding strategies. For example, in the refashioning of the body or gendered and sexual identities, or the ways in which intimacy can be a form of self-promotion.

Feminist and queer perspectives seek to expand the reach of what is constituted as belonging, love, connection and intimacy. Whereas recession culture has reestablished normative gender categories (Negra and Tasker 2014) contemporary digital cultures have the potential to challenge and rework gender and sexual identities (McGlotten 2013). This issue hopes to explore these productive tensions.

Potential papers could also explore how sexuality, sex, sexual knowledges and sexual pleasure function by looking, for example, at Do-It-Yourself porn, sexual subcultures and alternative sex practices. A final consideration underpinning this issue is how different intimacies intersect along axes of class, race, disability, age and geographical location.

Possible topics could include:
●      adapting and resisting gendered and sexed identities
●      forging new normative gendered identities
●      mediatised kinship (families, parenthood and fertility)
●      geolocation technology
●      dating and hook up apps, sex dating and relationship cultures
●      selfies
●      role of experts (e.g. sex advisors and agony aunts), including their changing meaning in peer-driven contexts
●      mediated romance
●      fitness apps and body culture
●      use of social networking sites, including instagram, Facebook, Twitter
●      self-branding
●      the mediation of friendship
●      rebranding feminism
●      pornography
●      monetization of intimacy, including big data, content generation and PR/advertising

Please send 7000 word completed essays by 30th January 2016 through Scholar One Manuscripts:
Please direct enquiries to Alison Winch, Feona Attwood and Jamie Hakim

Publication schedule:
30th January – deadline for submissions

February: Papers to peer reviewers

April: Comments to authors

September: Authors final revisions

December 2016: Final accepts

There was a Guardian article last summer which really caught my imagination. It introduced the term ‘everythingist’ to explain a recurrent inability to commit because there are so many other things to do. I’m a recovering everythingist. Or maybe I’m not recovering but I’ve learnt to make it work for me (at least in my working life). Though I’m not going to admit how many books I have on the go at the moment. The appeal of productivity culture for me (in the sense of things like GTD and omnifocus) stems from its capacity to help me extend the number of things I can keep on the go at the same time. It helps me elude the inevitable constraints of attention and energy. But those constraints are still there. Are you an everythingist?

Here’s how to tell if you, too, are an everythingist. Do you clutch your phone in your hand at all times, like a beacon against the cold, a magic talisman with its promise of otherness, betterness, of more attractive people desirous of your company elsewhere? Does it ensure you are unable to quite go with a plan or be in the moment because of all the other plans and moments where you might be, cheating on yourself with your other selves? Does your phone give you FOMO (AKA fear of missing out) for the party you’re not at, even when you’re at it? Did the news that Prism could be spying on all of our data give you a giddy rush when you thought that one of the lockdown powergeeks might be looking in and realising that you – you! – are the chosen one? Do you tend to fall asleep in your clothes, just in case the revolution should begin outside your bedroom window in the night?

Do you, like me, think that fairytale endings will magically happen to your life – ie, you will fall in deep rewarding love and raise daughters with Rapunzel hair in a beautiful Welsh farmhouse one day, writing novels on a typewriter, milking your nanny goats at dawn? Of course, this all will have to happen magically as you absolutely refuse to give up nightclubs and the closest you have come to milking your nanny goats at dawn was all a case of mistaken identity and that restraining order for going within a 40-metre ring of the late-night Turkish greengrocers is a gross infringement on your civil liberties, which you will sort out as soon as you find the bit of paper they wrote it on.

The everythingist can’t be tied down by a job and so they work freelance (ie are self-unemployed). They don’t want to be restricted by narrow labels like straight or gay because they believe their sexuality to be a fluid concept (ie they keep getting dumped). They are breathlessly addicted to their youth, despite being 12 years older than their parents were when they had them; can’t read a book to the end because they’ve already started two more; and they need to know, at all times, that they could, in theory, if they wanted to, at any point, run away to Rio de Janeiro.

The everythingist works from home, revelling in their freedom to go for a walk in the sunshine while other sad jobsworthy losers are stuck at their desks with not so much as a freelancer’s liedown to look forward to. The everythingist has been planning this walk in the sunshine for 17 days now, having been quite distracted by all the freelancer’s liedowns that it is their right and freedom to enjoy. In their lunch hour. I mean, why not? It’s not as if there’s any lunch.

I’d been vaguely intending to blog about this since last summer (unfortunately there were so many other things I wanted to blog about…) but two things reminded me about the notion of ‘everythingist’ recently. Firstly, an interesting Oliver Burkeman column argued that “the only conceivable way to live a meaningful life is to not do thousands of meaningful things”. His point was that committing to too many things undermines your capacity to properly commit to any of them. We have finite time, energy and attention. So if we try and pursue all the things we find interesting (or most of them) then we foreclose the possibility of really engaging with any of them. Secondly, I recently read the wonderful book The Importance of Disappointment by Ian Craib. He discusses the ‘illusions of the powerful self’ and a pervasive cultural tendency which leads us to seek ceaseless self-control and self-awareness.

What both these ideas point to are the objective implications of our actions. There is a subjective moment to decision making (“that’s interesting, I should do it”) but in so far as a decision is made there are also objective consequences to our decision. Some of these are consequences for ourself, as our commitment entails an allocation of our finite resources (though of course we don’t conceptualise it in these terms). Some of these are consequences for our circumstances, as our commitment leads us to enter into contracts and agreements, moving places and making changes to the characteristics of our lives. Everythingism represents a fundamental antipathy towards these constraints. It represents an inclination to try and elude the consequences of our actions. We want to have everything. We want to do everything. We want to be everything. At least in my case I want to read everything. It’s a particular response to cultural variety.

It’s a reticence to ‘bound’ variety, as Margaret Archer puts it, so as to delimit the pool of options we experience and choose from a more restricted set. For communicative reflexives, personal relations ‘bound’ variety. For autonomous reflexives, strategies and instrumentalism ‘bound’ variety. For meta-reflexives, ideas and ideals bound variety. For fractured reflexives, variety is overwhelming and disorientating. For everythingists, variety is a challenge. Unlike fractured reflexives, it provokes sustained responses but these sustained responses are mutually exclusive. Doing A makes it more difficult to do B etc. In trying to do both I run up against an objective relation, activated by my subjective commitment but irreducible to it – the fact I really really want to do both A and B doesn’t diminish the objective limitations on my time, energy and attention nor does it change the demands which doing A and B place upon me (given my personal characteristics).